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Title: Odilon Redon: The Color of the Unconscious
Authors: Pollack, Maika
Advisors: McCauley, Anne
DeLue, Rachael
Contributors: Art and Archaeology Department
Keywords: Odilon Redon
Subjects: Art history
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: “Odilon Redon: The Color of the Unconscious” is the first modern study of the influential color work of French Symbolist Odilon Redon (1840-1916). Redon established himself in the 1880s with black lithographs and charcoals, yet around 1890 he developed an extensive body of luminous oil paintings and pastels. Their astonishing colors puzzled commentators of his era including J. K. Huysmans, Paul Signac, and Leo Tolstoy. This dissertation contends that Redon’s color work signals a shift in form’s relationship to color and color’s relationship to mimesis a generation before art historians often locate the invention of abstraction. To explore this argument the dissertation first examines Redon’s relationship with Eugène Delacroix, showing that Redon embraced what he characterized as Delacroix’s “moral” color rather than Charles Blanc’s advocacy of line. Chapter Two then looks at Redon’s Yeux Clos paintings, in which his novel uses of color develop. This chapter analyzes Redon’s relationship to Neo-Impressionist color as well as his friendship with Paul Gauguin to show that Redon’s color develops alongside new technologies of pigment synthesis and explores identifications with French colonial subjects, resulting in a palette Redon described as “color derived from an Other.” Chapter Three examines Redon’s portraits of women alongside contemporaneous works on the unconscious mind to demonstrate color’s centrality to signal interiority in Redon’s portraits of “la femme nouvelle.” The final chapter and conclusion take up Redon’s relationship to Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Marcel Duchamp, and Redon’s reception at the American 1913 Armory Show to trace the afterlife of Redon’s color in the development of modern art. Overall, the dissertation demonstrates that color’s capacity to express interiority is a crucial aspect of Redon's legacy. Drawing on a range of French and Dutch archival materials from the Archives Nationales, the Musée d’Orsay and the Rijksmuseum as well as the André Mellerio archives at the Art Institute of Chicago, this dissertation examines Redon’s late color work as a means to address broader art historical debates about the nature of color in the development of abstraction, the relationship of technology in fin-de-siècle representation, and the role of the spectator in viewing artwork.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Art and Archaeology

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